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From Valmiki Ramayana, translated by Shulman and AK Ramanujan:

'Listen, Raghava, I'll tell you whose ashram this was and how it was cursed by a great man in anger. It was great Gautama's, this ashram that reminds you of heaven, worshipped even by the gods. Long ago, with Ahalya he practised tapas here I for countless years. Once, knowing that Gautama was away, Indra (called Thousand Eyes), Saci's husband, took on the likeness of the sage, and said to Ahalya: "Men pursuing their desire do not wait for the proper season, O you who have a perfect body. Making love with you: that's what I want. That waist of yours is lovely." She knew it was Indra of the Thousand Eyes in the guise of the sage. Yet she, wrongheaded woman, made up her mind. excited, curious about the king of the gods. And then, her Inner being satisfied, she said to the god, "I'm satisfied, klng of the gods. Go quickly from here. O giver of honour, love, protect yourself and me."

This excerpt showed that Ahalya, contrary to popular opinion, could see through Indra's disguise, and participated in the act willingly as well,

Why does then, Rama save her?

4 Answers 4

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The curse on Ahalya by Gautama is not permanent. Goutama himself mentions that Rama will liberate her from the curse.

Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kanda, translated by Bibek Debroy

Having cursed Shakra, he (Gautama) also cursed his wife. “You will reside here for many thousands of years. Subsisting on air and without food, you will torment yourself through austerities. You will sleep on ashes. You will live in this hermitage, unseen by all creatures. When the invincible Rama, Dasharatha’s son, arrives in this terrible forest, you will be purified. O one who is evil in conduct! When he becomes your guest, you will lose your avarice and confusion. You will then regain your own form and find delight with me.” The extremely energetic Goutama spoke in this way to the one who was evil in conduct.

Moreover, after narrating the account of Ahalya, Viswamitra asks Rama to liberate her from the curse.

O immensely energetic one! Therefore, enter the hermitage of the performer of auspicious deeds. Save the immensely fortunate Ahalya, who has the form of a goddess.’

Therefore, Rama liberates Ahalya from the curse.

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  • Why did Gautama said in his curse that she will be saved? Why did he not curse her forever? Afterall she was a mother as well.
    – user32467
    Commented Jan 16 at 7:49
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    @ArghyaShubhshiv All karmas (actions), whether good or bad, are finite, and they have finite results. Good karmas have finite rewards, bad karmas have finite punishments. Infinite punishment is impossible for a finite act.
    – estimator
    Commented Jan 16 at 10:24
  • What does it mean for an act to be finite?
    – user32467
    Commented Jan 16 at 12:16
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    @ArghyaShubhshiv Finite means, the acts are limited in scope and time.Like, for example, one can distribute a lot of food to the needy, but not infinite food.
    – estimator
    Commented Jan 16 at 12:54
  • @Arghya Shubshiv: For every crime there is a punishment that specifies modality and duration. After the long time lapsed, Gautama did not want an automatic closure of curse but wanted it be known to all, associating the event with Yugpurush Lord Rama. Btw, Indra acquired thousand apparent eyes after Goutama's curse, not before her consent.
    – Narasimham
    Commented Jan 16 at 13:33
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Ahalya was the most beautiful lady of her time. There was a race among the denizens of heaven and earth to marry her.Check this answer.

Sage Gautama cursed his dear wife to sanctify her life by undergoing intense tapasya thus removing her pride in her beauty. So the curse was a chance for Ahalya to reform herself into a better being. Ahalya's redemption by Sri Rama's could be the result of the intense and severe penance.

तस्यातिथ्येन दुर्वृत्ते लोभमोहविवर्जिता |
मत्सकाशे मुदा युक्ता स्वं वपुर्धारयिष्यसि |१-४८-३२

On your welcoming Rama, oh, ill-behaved woman, you will be divested of your greed and craze in which you lingered so far, and then you will assume your own body and then you can be in my proximity, rejoicingly.' Thus, Sage Gautama cursed his wife Ahalya

The uniqueness of our culture there are always ways to mend ourselves and evolve as a better person provided we sincerely regret, repent our mistakes and seek to reform.

This idea echoes across various Puranas and ancient scriptures. In fact, there are multiple instances in the Ramayana itself, such as Sri Rama accepting Vibhishana (even though he was from the enemy camp) when he sought refuge, Sri Rama's willingness to spare Ravana's life if he returned Sita Devi.

Ahalya performed tapasya for thousands of years and got rid of Kama. Her tapasya was soon intense and sincere that when Sri Rama redeemed her from the curse, flowers showered from heaven.

Valmiki describes Ahalya's lustre and radiant after severe penances

ददर्श च महाभागां तपसा द्योतितप्रभाम् |
लोकैरपि समागम्य दुर्निरीक्ष्यां सुरासुरैः || १-४९-१३
प्रयत्नान्निर्मितां धात्रा दिव्यां मायामयीमिव |
धूमेनाभिपरीताङ्गीं दीप्तामग्निशिखामिव || १-४९-१४
सतुषारावृतां साभ्रां पूर्णचन्द्रप्रभामिव |
मध्येऽम्भसो दुराधर्षां दीप्तां सूर्यप्रभामिव || १-४९-१५

She whose splendour is brightened by her ascesis, at whom it is impossible to raise an eye for a stare either for gods, or for demons, or for the worldly beings on coming close to her, whom the Creator has contrived with careful contemplation as an angelic and a completely phantasmal entity, who is like the befogged and beclouded moonshine of a full moon as she is hitherto enshrouded by the dried up leaves and dust, who is like an unwatchable sunshine mirrored in and glowing from the midst of water, for she is hitherto in the midst of denounce, and whose limbs are like the tongues of a flaring fire around which fumes are cloaking, as she is hitherto practising an utmost ascesis subsisting on air alone, which ascesis alone made her like a flaring Ritual Fir, and Rama has seen such a highly glorious Ahalya.

Gold regains its shine when beaten and heated at high temperatures to remove its impurities.

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Ahilya's story serves as a powerful moral lesson in Hindu mythology:Compassion and Forgiveness: Ahilya's liberation by Rama emphasizes the values of compassion and forgiveness, showing that even those who err can be redeemed through sincere repentance.Justice and Mercy: The story balances the themes of justice (Ahilya's initial punishment) and mercy (her eventual redemption), illustrating the nuanced nature of dharma

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We have to remember that Hinduism was much more liberal before islamic influence. The original Ramayana by Valmiki is much more realistic and much less fantastical than Ramcharitmanas written by Tulsidas.

In Ramayana, yes she is complicit and guilty. When Gautama Rishi finds Indra leaving his Kutiya, he curses him to become impotent. When he looks at his wife, he realizes she is also guilty. In my interpretation, he speaks harshly in metaphoric terms in the same way a husband might in modern times and then he leaves her, but maybe he literally means for her to be invisible and go without food and water and all the other things he says. Regardless, she is humiliated and suffers the loss of her husband and falls into a deep depression.

When Ram arrives (and it's after a much shorter time than thousands of years as mentioned by Tulsidas), she's in a terrible state. He realizes that she has suffered gravely for her mistake and declares that she has more than paid for her sin and that she should be absolved. It's very interesting to me that in the original Ramayana, she IS guilty, but she is deemed to have suffered enough and is in-fact taken back by Gautama. But in the later version, which was written during islamic rule, she is turned into a stone for thousands of years despite being innocent.

I respect Tulsidas because there was a reason for what he wrote. He was one of the people responsible for the revival of Hinduism under islam rule. But the original Ramayana is much more interesting to me because it's way more realistic. In fact it's fascinating to me that a book written so may thousands of years ago is so relevant to modern life. The original Ramayana is about the human condition. We all make mistakes. Nobody can escape sin. She made a mistake and she suffered terribly, maybe more than warranted. No mistake requires indefinite punishment.

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